Padres: Craig Stammen saves the day and silences his critics

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

You can’t plan on losing your starting pitcher in the first inning. But it happens and you have to be able to adapt to the situation. To say the Padres bullpen, particularly veteran Craig Stammen, rose to the occasion Sunday is putting it mildly.

Starter Adrian Morejon departed after just two-thirds of an inning with what’s been labeled an elbow/forearm strain. That’s something we’ll delve into after we learn more following his re-evaluation on Monday. For now, let’s see our focus on the guy who came on in relief of the lefty.

Stammen took over with two away in the first – and wound up tossing 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball. It had been more than four years since the veteran had pitched that many frames out of the pen and given the criticism he’d faced this season, it was pretty special to see him step up and keep the Padres in the ballgame.

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With the only San Diego offense coming via a solo home run from Trent Grisham (until Manny Machado hit a rocket in the ninth for his second homer of the year), the margin for error was nil. But that didn’t matter to Stammen, whose outing will pay dividends for weeks to come.

The Padres are heading into a stretch where they play every single day for two straight weeks. The team’s next scheduled off-day isn’t until April 26 – and before then, the Friars will battle the Dodgers seven times. What I’m saying is this: having the bullpen as rested as possible heading into this stretch is absolutely critical. Without Stammen’s gutsy effort on Sunday, the Padres would be in a very different situation.

Of course, Joe Musgrove kept the bullpen fresh by throwing a no-hitter on Friday. But Chris Paddack lasted just four the next day – so the arms had to eat a full five innings Saturday, followed by 8 2/3 frames in Sunday’s finale against Texas.

Craig Stammen still has plenty to offer the Padres at age-37

Stammen has seen his share of ups and downs in a Padres uniform over the years. From 2017 to 2019, he was a dependable member of the staff, working to a 3.06 ERA across more than 200 appearances. But last season, he was hit hard – to the tune of a 5.63 ERA (albeit his FIP was far more respectable at 3.37).

The 37-year-old has plenty of competition in the bullpen now after AJ Preller loaded up with the likes of Keone Kela and Mark Melancon, adding to a mix that already featured Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz, among others.

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But he showed exactly why he’s such a critical part of this team on Sunday, willing the Padres to the series sweep in one of the most memorable outings he’s made in some time.